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Culturally Responsive Counselling for Parents

Program Evaluation of the CARES Program

What was this project about?

Experiences of stress impact parents’ mental health, and their capacity to support their children’s needs. The South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) in Scarborough developed an intervention to address the need for culturally responsive mental health care for parents of autistic children. The SAAAC CARES (Counselling, Assistance, Reinforcement and Empowerment Services) program is a volunteer-run, group-based counselling service for parents in the South Asian community. Volunteers from the South Asian community are selected based on their experience working with vulnerable populations and are preferably matched with groups of 2-6 parents with whom they are able to communicate in their first language. SAAAC clients meet for six-sessions, where they talk about understanding and accepting their child’s diagnosis, their own coping skills, and goal setting.

How did we do this project?

Parent participants completed questionnaires before and after the CARES program to assess changes in mental health, family distress, and quality of life. Additionally, parents completed brief surveys at each of the six sessions to evaluate satisfaction with the program and therapeutic alliance. Starting in 2018, staff at SAAAC had been collaborating with Dr. Jonathan Weiss on a program evaluation of the CARES program. This research project aimed to evaluate the program’s clinical utility (feasibility and preliminary effectiveness).

What's next?

SAAAC is planning to launch a new CARES Implementation Study. We plan to assist the team at SAAAC in evaluating the effectiveness of the CARES program when implemented in different clinical settings.

Want to know more about this project?

For more information, please feel free to contact Dr. Jonathan Weiss, Principal Investigator on the study, at

This project was funded by a LaMarsh Graduate Student Research Award and by the York Research Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disability.